Bill Condon to direct ‘Side Show’ at Kennedy Center

“Side Show” was one of those artistic ventures that, adored by musical theater enthusiasts but shunned by the less ardent of Broadway’s fans, failed to catch on.

Now, it’s getting another chance at broadening its base.

The Kennedy Center and San Diego’s La Jolla Playhouse announced Tuesday that the 1997 show, with music by “Dreamgirls” composer Henry Krieger and book and lyrics by Bill Russell, will be revived a year and a half from now, starting in La Jolla and then coming to Washington, with a revised book and score by its originators.

This time around, however, the director will be filmmaker and screenwriter Bill Condon, who adapted and directed “Dreamgirls” for the screen and wrote the screenplay for the Oscar-winning film version of “Chicago.” No casting has been announced.

“Side Show” has as its unusual protagonists Violet and Daisy Hilton, real-life conjoined twins who became a circus act. When it opened on Broadway in October 1997, with Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner as the twins, critics praised its heart-rending melodies and daring story, which included a gentle elucidation of their romantic lives. However, the book struck some as lacking a dramatic focus, and the show closed after just 91 performances.

The Kennedy Center presented an extended excerpt of “Side Show,” showcasing 11 of its songs, in a 2008 production, “Broadway: Three Generations,” that also featured the scores of “Girl Crazy’’ and “Bye Bye Birdie.” It was the success of the “Side Show” portion of the evening, with Lisa Brescia and Jenn Colella as Violet and Daisy, that doubtless contributed to the decision to bring the musical back to Washington for a full production.

Specific dates have yet to be worked out, but Kennedy Center officials say that the show will be produced first at La Jolla Playhouse, under Artistic Director Christopher Ashley, in fall 2013. According to the Kennedy Center’s president, Michael M. Kaiser, that engagement will be followed by a run in the center’s Eisenhower Theater beginning in June 2014.

Peter Marks joined the Washington Post as its chief theater critic in 2002. Prior to that he worked for nine years at the New York Times, on the culture, metropolitan and national desks, and spent about four years as its off-Broadway drama critic.
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